Oxford: Hands-On Science!

Monday 14th December 2015

Ping! You had one new email. It said: “Not sure that you’d be interested, but you’ll be in Oxford that week so I thought maybe you’d want to do one of the days”.

From its title, “New OxHOS Society“, I was expecting the email to be just another advert for just another society, but the sender knew me well enough to know I’d be hooked. It read:

Do you love science? Oxford Hands-On Science (OxHOS) is a group of students seeking to spread our enthusiasm for science by taking interactive, Hands-On experiments to schools and public venues. We want to show the public that science is awesome and inspire the next generation of scientists.

I’m so happy I didn’t miss that email.

Of course, I decided to join. Soon I was sitting with other students – mostly chemists, mathematicians, engineers and biologists of all sorts – at a training workshop, discussing how to communicate science in different scenarios. For example how do you talk about science to kids? What if they are joined by their parents? Do you make it all sound simple enough for a 4-year-old to understand? What is fair to expect someone to know? Do you want to teach them or entertain them? How far should you explain a scientific concept and how far should you let the audience discover themselves?  These are all questions that I often ask myself but this time discussed in a group, all pointing towards a specific goal: to make more people excited about science. Soon we were ready to put our learning in to practice.

The OxHOS Roadshow lasted for a week, during which time we visited three schools, as well as the East Oxford Community Centre and the Templars Square Shopping Centre in Cowley. I had the lucky opportunity to volunteer for two days demonstrating the spinning chair, a fun physics experiment where a person sits on a chair and starts spinning, and the position of their body can change how fast the chair spins. It is hard to tell who was having the most fun, me or the kids visiting my experiment. For nearly every “What if I spin it like this?” I could simply invite them to find out with a “Why don’t you try it?”, which they would do very eagerly.

Looking around the room, I saw hot air balloons, animal skulls and X-rays, cantilever bridges and even mini-explosions. Above all, a lot of excitement, with kids bombarding the demonstrators with questions of all sorts to the point where even the adults in the room would reveal their curiosity to us, sometimes with a timid smile: “So, how does this work?”

These three were enthralled by the X-rays. That is science, appealing to all ages!
After the Roadshow, the OxHOS group went straight to brainstorming for the next demonstrations! The ones used in the first Roadshow were borrowed from our sister society Cambridge Hands-On Science, so now it’s time for OxHOS to have its own. I could not help but smile as I remembered the enthusiasm in the faces of everyone: demonstrators, adults, and kids of all ages. Again, I must say, I’m so happy I didn’t miss that initial email.

And if you want to know more about Oxford Hands-On Science (OxHOS), check out our website! We are preparing more experiments for upcoming events, for upcoming events, and our next Roadshow in summer 2016 – soon we might be closer to you, stay tuned!

Share this News